High baby birth weight and risk of hormone-associated cancer in mothers: the cancer–cardiovascular disease dichotomy and its possible causes

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Abstract

The idea of intrauterine or fetal factors being the cause of several prevalent noninfectious diseases in adults has recently gained the status of an axiom. One of the most thoroughly studied predictors is birth weight (BW). Although many published studies point at relations between BW and later adult morbidity or mortality, much less attention is paid to associations between baby BW and maternal morbidity. Available data suggest a sort of dichotomy in these relationships. Thus, cardiovascular risk is higher in mothers of babies with a reduced BW, while cancer risk, mainly of the breast and some other hormone-dependent cancers, is often higher among mothers of babies with a large BW (newborn macrosomia). This review addresses possible causes and endocrine mechanisms of this topic and suggests a ‘particular’ and ‘general’ solution for arising controversy. Emphasis is placed on a probable competition between chronic diseases (mainly, between female hormone-related cancer and cardiovascular pathology) within the concept of multiple causes of death. These associations should be remembered while studying the relation between offspring BW and maternal predisposition to hormone-associated cancers and other noncommunicable diseases.

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